On the third trimester (or baby chronicles: Part Three)

August 15, 2018
25weeks 6days gestation

It’s funny to me that he already wakes up Mackenzi with his wriggling and writhing in her belly. When she gets up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, this startles baby awake and he dances and explores his little area. I have trouble even sensing him most of the time, but he’s already so interactive with Mackenzi.

He’s been so active the past week or two. Increasingly so. Mackenzi tells me how he is exploring different parts of her uterus, kicking and moving and maybe even twisting. He’s going to be a handful, I know.

Just keep baking in the oven, baby.

August 23, 2018
26w6d gestation

I’m thinking about you far more than I am writing about you. Mackenzi has been showing off your karate kicks to our close friends, allowing them to feel your movement and wiggles. I wonder what you are experiencing in there. I wonder if you have begun to dream, if some of those movements are occurring as you fall asleep, just like your mother.

The baby shower was an amazing show of love by our friends to our growing family. A friend mentioned that when we walked into the dimly lit apartment and everyone sprung out to surprise us, my first instinct was to touch baby and check on Mackenzi. A video taken confirms this, and I barely recall this happening. Perhaps a good sign that I am entering dad space, the place where I accept the responsibility and mantle of father, rather than before when I talked the talk, but didn’t walk the walk.

We have so much stuff love from our friends just waiting to be unpacked. I will get to that this weekend when your grandmother arrives. Maybe she would love to help us wash your new wardrobe and assemble some of your new toys and weird bits of furniture that are specific to this infant stage of your life.

This morning was cool and dewy. I felt the traces of fall. A reminder that you are coming, that you are arriving in my arms soon.

I cannot wait.

October 8, 2018
28w3d gestation

I am surprised at how little I’ve written about you. Don’t worry, your mother and I have been speaking endlessly and planning nonstop about you. Just this weekend, we assembled the wonderful gifts from the baby shower: your automated swinging seat, your dirty diaper receptacle, and your combined changing table and play crib are all waiting for you.

I am thankful for this time with Andre away from the house so that we can really begin to plan in earnest where your things will be. It seems that the room next to ours will be yours. You are now only about four or five pounds, but already you take up the most space out of us all! I expect this to be a continuing trend. Mackenzi asked me if the minimalist inside is dying. And I will honestly state here: yes.

It is terribly hard to know what we should do. We are figuring out so much for the first time. So much growth and change in our relationship. And you haven’t even arrived!

Should we get the wahakura? Or should I try to weave one for you? Do we need more baby-centric furniture, or should we wait until we know where we will match for residency? We have so much excellent advice, but not a lot of learned tricks. In this way, I am reminded of the plethora of study aides for Step One, but that does not make dedicated step prep more enjoyable.

I know that I have said out loud that your arrival during the interview season complicates our lives. I did not really understand how true this statement until recently. Trying to plan around a massive variable such as yourself is nigh impossible.

When do we make our way to the west coast for interviews and face-to-faces? Middle of December, which might be two-weeks post-partum? Or do we push back to January, when mother and baby are more settled, but the interview season has largely finished? Do we risk interviews for comfort with you?

To that question, I emphatically answer yes.

Your mother worries about the risk. I know that your fourth trimester is more important than a dozen interview offers. As of writing, I am on the palliative consult service. No one on their deathbed has or will ever say that they wished they spent more time at work.

In this same vein, I will always err on the side of family, of you. Yes, I will pass up prestigious interviews or residency programs if they are not willing to accommodate a new father and his needs. And let me be clear, your comfort and our connection is a need.

I have told your mother that we have many Schrodinger’s Boxes to pass through, events and time points where the future is impossible to predict on the other side.

The first Box is your arrival. Will you arrive on time? Safely? Will there be complications that require an extended stay in the hospital for you or mother?

The second Box is Match Day. Where will we spend the next four years of our lives together? You will likely not remember Coopersburg or the spring water available from the tap, but you will remember where we match for residency. And will that be on the west coast? Will we remain in Pennsylvania?

The future is uncertain, as ever.

Finally, I’ve noticed my propensity to write these entries to you, my son. The first and second trimesters were filled with references to a baby, but were largely a chronicle of your mother and I’s journey through parenthood. Now, in this third trimester when I can feel you kick against your temporary abode, I feel obligated to write to you, my baby. I hope that you will one day read these entries and note the evolution of language yourself.

In some ways, these writings and smears of my consciousness absolve me of abandoning you.

I have written three books already, in which I describe my journey from “single and ready to mingle” to meeting your mother, to moving in with your mother, to marrying your mother, and most recently to loving you, my son. If I die before your birth or before you can even remember my face, then I can meet creation with a smile in my heart knowing that you will be able to connect with me, to hear my voice and read my thoughts. Of course, I wish for a long life with you in which I make you an orphan only after you start your own family.

But should I die unexpectedly? I have done everything that I possibly can to ensure that you know your father.

What more can I do?

November 5, 2018
32w3d gestation

My son, I feel like I am ready for you. We have finished so much nesting that needed to be done prior to your arrival. The house feels like one big home now, rather than a house of individual rooms. I have much more to do before I am done, but I am beginning to understand my father’s tendency to pick up projects without an end in sight.

We have begun planning for your arrival in earnest. There are checklists and go-bags growing in length and weight. I hope that you can wait just a few more days, to allow your mother a proper maternity leave to relax and rest before the trial of your labor. Trust me, all three of us will need that rest time.

For so long, the idea of making it to November seemed like an impossibly distant future. The anxiety of interview season has faded because I am so in love with the idea of you.

I just want to hold you. Interviews be damned. I have only a handful, far less than I expected, but I do not worry. Things will work out in the way they must.

This is, after all, how you came into being.

November 8, 2018
32w6d gestation

Your mother approaches her maternity leave, something we have all been anticipating greatly. Last night, on the new moon, I felt that if your mother would begin labor early, she would have begun last night. Michael‘s sister, another primigravid, begun and finished labor last night, adding weight to my concern.

Your mother had her last full and long day in the hospital, walking up and down the towers and across the campuses. She is a tough woman. I am glad to call her the mother of my children.

Now that we have passed that threshold and we are now in your moon, I feel confident that you will begin to make your way out on time, during that full and beautiful fall moon. But of course, you have final say.

I have been connecting with friends recently. Making lots of phone calls and rekindling relationships. Perhaps this is another form of nesting, except in the abstract sense, rather than the physical cleansing and preparation of space.

I connect with those near and far to ensure that these relationships last during the trial ahead. Much like a thorough washing of the laundry and sheets, I don’t know when I will next be able to do such chores and activities, so best to cover that ground now, rather than 2wks post-partum when I am delirious from lack of sleep.

One friend that I have reconnected with is an old classmate from university. He is expecting a son with his partner, who has a due date a few weeks after ours. I find a wonderful contrast between our experiences of entering fatherhood.

He is working the 9-5 corporate job, living near lots of family and great amounts of support. They have been married for several years and decided that this was the time to start their family. This son will be the first grandchild on both sides, like you. They have a sense of stability and continuity that I envy.

I cannot say what the future holds for us. Will your first memories be in Reno, Nevada? Or Jacksonville, FL? Maybe we’ll move into the valley proper as we stay at LVHN. Or the dream of UC Davis will come to fruition.

I cannot say.

And you were unplanned. A welcome challenge to my own sense of self and my relationship with your mother.

There’s an odd symmetry that I notice here. I remember when your grandparents met for the first time, when we moved from Florida to Pennsylvania after second year. I pondered this idea of arranged marriages. All marriages are arranged, at least on some level. In a traditional arranged marriage sense, the families arrange the union on the children’s behalf. In a modern marriage, the children arrange the families’ marriage.

In an unplanned pregnancy, I am forced to grow quickly and rapidly. I must face inner barriers within myself to provide you protection from them, so that I do not pass them down to you unintentionally. From the understanding that the pregnancy is viable to delivery, there is a wild few seasons of growth and change. The sense of readiness may never come, but this growth affords at least some level of readiness. A cold splash of water to induce change.

In a planned pregnancy, the growth occurs slowly and ahead of the gestation. This gentle process allows the couple to feel that they are ready for the burden. Perhaps they were ready years or decades ago, but the sensation of readiness always lags behind the actual state of readiness. I always say that you will be physically able to run a marathon far before you feel like you are ready to run a marathon.

And so, in a planned pregnancy there is slow growth at the cost of starting later. In an unplanned pregnancy, there is starting earlier at the cost of painful, rapid growth.

You are unplanned.

That does not mean you are unwelcome.

I wonder how I will feel during the next pregnancies. Will I self-interrogate as deeply to grow and change into the man that will be a decent father to you, my children? Will we plan the conception, once we have developed some roots and a sense of stability? Or will we run into another unexpected pregnancy during residency, adding another layer to an already wild time in our lives?

These are, of course, questions that cannot be answered now. I drift in and out of future orientation. I attempt daily to remain present, to focus and enjoy the tasks ahead of me: nesting and cleaning, completing research and online courses to give me a buffer during your initial weeks of life, and loving your mother while we are still merely a couple.

The day dreams that I allow myself to enjoy fully, are ones in which I imagine you as a small nugget of life, resting fitfully on my chest, breathing your first breaths, and the wave of emotions that will wash over me.

The counter point to these daydreams filled with love are imaginations of deep, profound grief. Grief is the other side of love, the same coin but different expressions. With my growing love for you, I must also prepare myself for my loss of you. For my loss of your mother.

While driving a few days ago, I imagined what songs I would sing at your wake. Father and Son by Yusuf/Cat Stevens followed by Amazing Grace. I cried ugly, deep tears. I hope that I never need to live out these thoughts.

I know that I would be ruined by the loss of you, or Mackenzi, or even worse, both of you. Could I pull myself together?

If I lost your mother, could I raise you in a manner that you deserved? Or would you live with my sister and her partner for a time, while I grieved and allowed myself to fall into a pit of despair?

Could my partnership with your mother survive your loss? I hope so, but I know the profound depth of our grief would drive a wedge between us unless we fell together.

So much love to consider. So much potential loss to consider.

Things can be good, and things are good now.

I must not take that simple sentence for granted.

Yes, the future is unknown and full of soul-crushing darkness. But I have you, a small candle close to my heart, which keeps me warms when the winds blow and threaten to puff you, my son, out of existence.

November 15, 2018
33w6d gestation

The first snow of the season. There is a wonderful symmetry here.

I remember the snow fall when we told Andre about your presence in our lives. We felt such energy that we couldn’t possibly stay inside, so Honey joined us on a romp outdoors in the knee-high snow.

We may romp less today, but the feeling is still the same. We are a mere week from your Estimated Due Date. You are, without a doubt, a winter baby. You have summoned the snow for the announcement of the pregnancy and you have demanded further snow for your arrival in the world. I wonder what other demands you will make of this world. Ones that I can scarcely imagine.

We are entering the phase of your pregnancy where I accompany your mother wherever she goes. Just in case you decide that now, during a presentation 1hr from home, is when the water should break or the contractions should begin. So, you and your mother have a chaperone.

I knew that this season would arrive. The quarter moon rises behind your snowfall. Your grandmother arrives next week to care for your mother and you. Your paternal aunt, uncle, grandmother, and grandfather will arrive on your due date. We hope that you will be here for them to spoil and love. If not, we will enjoy the company and begin the deeper countdown.

November 24 2018
40w1d gestation

Your due date has come and gone without fanfare.

We had so many quiet expectations of what this week would look like and feel like. Maybe you’d be in our arms during Thanksgiving dinner with my family and your maternal grandmother. Maybe your mother would begin labor right when everyone arrived. I had so many questions about what this week would bring.

The answer is simply: family.

Perhaps you are stalling for time. Your mother’s womb must be a warm and safe place and the idea of departure must frighten you. Your arrival frightens me, to be honest.

This morning, after a lovely dinner and a movie with the family, your mother awoke with a headache. Over the past few OB visits, we’ve noticed a slow trend upwards of her blood pressure. The concern? Pre-eclampsia.

We contacted the on-call physician and they told us to head into the hospital. I am so deeply thankful for your grandmother here with us, who can accompany your mother to the triage and testing required to ensure your safety. I stayed at home, finishing up stacking wood and awaiting news of your health. A few hours later and your mother is sent home with the advice of more tylenol for the headache.

To me, this brings to the forefront my needs. I need you and your mother to be healthy and safe. The interviews out west and south that would require plane trips and lots of flexibility are a want, not a need. We can match here at LVHN without much fuss, we know that the program directors would not leave us hanging in the wind.

To say it bluntly: the worst thing is not missing our interviews in CA or FL, the worst thing is the death of you and your mother.

I do not want to plan a double funeral. If I can hold you in one arm and your mother in the other, then everything is as it should be. The idea of these interviews and a deep rank order list would be nice, but your life is my concern.

The rest will figure itself out.

Friends are reaching out, checking in, and asking if baby has arrived. So many people care about you and your parents. They, like myself, must practice patience.

We have begun scheduling the induction of your labor. I had not even really considered this as a possibility. I had assumed that you would arrive early, to complicate plans but in a lovely way. The idea of scheduling your labor feels foreign to me. I want your birth to be natural. But there’s that word again: want.

I need your birth to be successful. I need the health of your mother. As stressed as I feel now, I know that the sleep deprivation of the weeks ahead will challenge me.

I embrace this coming struggle, if it only means that we pass through the eye of the needle unscathed.

November 25, 2018
40w2d gestation

Labor has begun.

My son, you are arriving.

Travel safe.


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